Despite earlier promises that the 2017 budget would make housing a centrepiece, the social sector claims the federal budget has failed to deliver the big-picture solutions needed to end homelessness.
In his budget speech, on Tuesday night, Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government had chosen to “put downward pressure on rising housing costs” and he outlined measures he claimed would “make a difference”.
“Whether you are saving to buy a home, spending a high proportion of income on your rent, waiting for subsidised housing, or you’re homeless, this is an important issue to you,” Morrison said.
“There are no silver bullets to make housing more affordable. But by adopting a comprehensive approach, by working together, by understanding the spectrum of housing needs, we can make a difference.”
As part of the package he revealed the Commonwealth would replace the $1.3 billion National Affordable Housing Agreement with a new set of agreements with the same funding, requiring states “to deliver on housing supply targets and reform their planning systems”.
He also announced a “bond aggregator” to be managed by a new National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC), set to be established by 1 July next year.
According to the treasurer the NHFIC would provide long-term, low-cost finance to support more affordable rental housing, with states and territories also encouraged to transfer stock to the community housing sector.
Morrison also announced $375 million for a permanent extension of homelessness funding to the states, with a continued focus on supporting young people and victims of domestic violence.
But the social sector has criticised the budget as “unfair” and said homelessness will continue to rise under the new measures.
“While the increased security of funding for homelessness services is very welcome, the fact remains that we can’t house the 105,000 Australians experiencing homelessness each night until there is a real increase in public housing to get 200,000 people off waiting lists,” Homelessness Australia chair Jenny Smith said.
“The treasurer has failed in his promise to deliver a budget that focuses on fairness, opportunity and security for those doing it tough.
“The most fundamental form of security is a safe and affordable place to live, and yet this budget does nothing to get 200,000 people off public housing waiting lists.
“The best opportunity you can give your kids is a stable home, but 29,000 Australians under 18 will remain homeless under this budget.”
Homelessness Australia had previously called on the government to: roll back negative gearing and capital gains tax, increase the supply of public housing, better integrate existing services, invest in Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing services, increase the focus on prevention, establish better outcomes measurement and “close the gap” for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, none of which were allocated additional funding.
Smith said the budget was not “fair”.